Die Hard

30 06 2007

It is here. And it is spectacular. 

“Why are you so calm? Have you done that kind of stuff before?”


iPhone Home

29 06 2007


Apple hopes to sell 10 million by the end of next year and AT&T (formerly Cingular) hopes it will help gain market share over Verizon Wireless. The high price of the phone ($499, not included taxes and fees, a 2-yr service contract with AT&T only, and various peripherals) deters many from buying it immediately. It will not work on AT&T’s fastest 3G network but will work with WiFi hotspots for faster connections. While there will be many early adopters, it may have difficulty in the broader market. A limited survey of 2000 US net surfers found only 3% would have a strong interestin buying this today. As today’s estimated population is 301,139,947, that would be 9,034,198. Not bad for an estimate – they now have 1 year to find a million more customers worldwide – how challenging indeed, given prices will fall and technical glitches will be addressed. Those used to a physical radio button keyboard face will have a learning curve. Another issue is that the battery isn’t replaceable by the user (just like the iPod) but that did not stop you from going out and buying one, did it?

On balance it combines intelligent voice calling, a fullfledged iPod and a beautiful interface for usic and video playback. Its Safari is an elegant movile browser and it has robust email software. it syncs elegantly with PCs and Macs using iTunes software. it has the largest and highest resolution screen of any smart phone and the most internal memory, being the thinnest smart phone available with impressive battery life. The omission of the keyboard  will win you over because of smart sofware that corrects typos on the fly. The big problem – cellphone network. It only works with AT&T and cannot use SIM cards that permit it to run on T-mobile’s network so you cannot use it overseas unless you have an AT&T roaming plan. AT&T has significant dropped calls in my subdivision so this is not an option. It can’t even run on 3G using a pokey network called EDGE, far slower that the fastest networks from Verizon or Sprint. The initial iPhone cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks. But it can use wi-fi networks (Pleasanton downtown will be wi-fi by year’s end) and Concord, Pleasant Hill and the Creek already are. Monthly plans from AT&T, all including unlimited net and email usage, run from $60 to $220, depending on voice minutes. You choose the plan when you connect the iPhone to the iTunes software (not in the store). The phone is as long as the Blackberry 8800, wider than the BlackJack and heavier than each. There are only three (3) buttons along the edges. On the top to wake it up and put it to sleep. On the left, volume control and a mute switch. The head phone jack is deeply recessed so you need an adapter for existing iPod headphones. The iPhone uses the standard iPort on the bottom but does not recognize all car adapter to play music (only to charge). This should have a service pack soon. Flick with your finger to go through long lists (emails, songs, contacts), tap to select items, pinch and drga in/out to resize. You cannot use a stylus for any of this. If you turn from vertical to horizontal in a web browser or photo program, the image turns and resizes. That is fun. For five minutes. You cannot cut, copy or paste text. BlackBerry email services cannot be used on the phone. The base model ($499) has 4GB of memory but the $599 has 8GB which is much more than smartphone out there (Treo 700p is the most at 128MB) but less than an iPod. You cannot carry a spare battery but it runs up to 7 hours (most others top off at 5.5 hours). For only use as a continuous music playback, you get 22 hours and about 6 hours (4 movies) for video playback.

The phone interface is clean and simple but you take more taps and you need to scroll as you cannot start typing a name or number. Voice call quality is good, not great. It can use Bluetooth wireless headsets. There is no way to transfer numbers via AT&T from an existing phone. There is no instant messaging. It cannot record video. It cannot use Adobe Flash technology. You cannot use your songs as ringtones. There are no games. You cannot directly access the iTunes Music Store. It is not for someone who wants a cheap small phone to ring and text. It is not for me. But it’s very pretty.

Boot Camp

28 06 2007


It’s Boot Camp for winos! 

0830: 31 of us. 3 vans. Sleepy. We are to be shutted in red and white vans to Sonoma square. I feel like the Red Cross people in “Tears of the Sun”

0850: Orientation. Uniforms. Induction. The t shirts are not terribly chic. I am not being Gucci’d Pucci’d. Some kid in a sweatshop in Qidong made this. For the cost of a drop of the red wine we will drink. There are heaping baskets of croissants, muffins and juice boxes. Besides the tees, we get a three ring binder, orders of the day and a baseball cap. There is also water and bos of healthy (and not so much) snacks to sustain us

0900: Nobody is wasting time here. We are off to a vineyard tour at Gundlach Nudschu. More brown paper bags crammed with GB goodies. Briefing.

0940: Suckering. Precise pruning to ensure proper growth for next year’s grape growth. I am basically opposed to manual labor but I find this to be contemplative and meditative. Of course, I do not do this day after day in the hot sun so I count my blessings.

1045: Winery tour. 10,000 foot long tunnel. Barrel tasting. I love this part.

1130: Aromatic workshop. Laminated sheets. 21 small containers. They have items like pineapple, honey, cherry, jam, cinnamon, vanilla. 2 wine glasses. Labeled “ONE” and “TWO”. Ready, set, go. We taste five rounds of two (2) wines each. Swirl for clarity, brilliance, tone and depth. Then inhale. Then taste. We make copious notes. I feel like I am in OChem class. Gooseberry smells like cat urine. Or dog urine, I am not quite sure which.

1230:  Mess hall. Panini. Asiago pasta. Warm cookies.  GB 2001 Chardonay and 2001 Gamay Noir. Hike up the knoll for pictures.

1345: Tantalus on the west side. We taste 1999 Semillon (RR Valley), 1999 Syrah (Lodi) and Cab Sauvs (1998, 1999, both Sonoma). Note – this was not on the schedule so someone in my group pulled strings. I like diversions so much.

1500: Benziger. Trolley ride. Late Harvest riesling 1994. An older lady says it’s better than sex. Oh, honey, you poor thing. Barrel tasting. Meh.

1600: Beakers, pipettes, funnels. I am getting bored in a Benziger garage. Now we are mixing varietals to make individualized bottles. 2000 Reserve Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This is like blending at Tenuta’s for M’s surprise birthday but with less excitement. I seal my bottle with molten wax. It looks all so professional. To me. But I really want to be making labels.

1715: Appetizers. Yummy. Pre-dinner wines from Kaz and Kunde. Kaz makes organic sulfite free wines.

1800: Graduation. I feel so guilty – I didn’t do much to deserve this. Better than sex lady used to be a high school principal. Now I have to behave. I talk to the Christians in the group. There’s a guy who received this as his Fathers’ Day gift. Finally, he’s decided to speak to us – I am thinking steroid daze. Impressive guns.

1815: Dinner. Wine paired. Stuffed

2000: Heading to the hotel room to bang this out for you. Huge email pile up expected but have to be up at crack o’dawn to head back to work. I love a mid week break.

Exit Blair

27 06 2007


At least he had a good sense of humour. Last month as the PM who’s not “bovvered”.

Iced Coffee

26 06 2007

Please. Iced coffee should be cold-brewed.

  • clean up a Mason jar and a sieve
  • add water to the coffee, stir, cover and leave overnight on the counter
  • strain grounds through the sieve; filter silt through a coffee filter
  • dilute brew one to one with water for immediate use OR freeze concentrate into cubes for later use

I add half and half, and amaretto sugar, but that’s just me


Scary Movies

25 06 2007

Millennium Dome

24 06 2007


7 controversial years and GBP 750,000,000 later, the building formerly known as Millennium Dome reopens Sunday. Now called O2, it seats 23,000. Many acts are set to charge a reasonable GBP30 per seat but her concerts sold out in just 20 minutes. It is a real life Tardis. As high as Nelson’s column, it would take a million pints of beer to fill it. You could get the Tour Eiffel in there on its side, 18000 double decker buses, 12 football pitches and even (gasp) new Wembley. Getting there couldn’t be easier. There’s a tube station on its doorstep, London city airport is next door and AEG (which owns the high speed Thames Clipper) runs regular river shuttles every 15 minutes on show nights. Other nights, it departs every hour from Waterloo Pier (30) or London Bridge Pier (20 minutes). Food waste is 100% recycled and all vegetable oil used for cooking will be returned into biodiesel. The roof lights are five times as energy efficient as before. 74% of goers are expected to arrive by public transport and 43% of the staff is local.

Mobile phone network O2 is paying GBP6 million annually for the naming rights. O2 users get extra perks including 48 hour early access to tickets, fast track entry and VIP bar with chill out zone, DJ and texting jukebox. You can take three (3) friends with you. Mobile ticketing with Ticketmaster is another perk.

By tube, take the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich (Zone 2). Canary wharf in 5. London Bridge/Stratford in 10. Waterloo in 15  and Bond Street in 15 minutes. Jubilee Line is the only underground that connects with all others so you can come from out of Londontown via National Rail.

Fun facts:

  • the twelve steel masts are 100 meters high
  • if you turne dit upside down, it would take Niagara falls 15 minutes to fill it (or you could fill it with 1100 olympic pools water)
  • its volume is thirteen Albert Halls, ten St Paul’s Cathedrals or two old Wembleys
  • or 72 Wimbledon tennis courts
  • Entertainment Ave is as long and broad as Bond Street
  • ther are 548 toilets: no more queuing